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Green Solutions for Winter Ant Control and Elimination

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According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are 750 different ant species that live in varying habitats throughout North America. Only about 30 of those species, however, are problematic in homes. The National Park Service Integrated Pest Management Manual suggests that there may be upwards of 20,000 ant species throughout the world. The best long term solution eliminating any indoor pest problem in winter is learning effective tactics for preventing them from getting inside the home in the first place.

Integrated Pest Management or IPM as the Greenest Solution

The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) explains that IPM or Integrated Pest Management, uses non-toxic methods as the first line of defense in controlling pests. The success of an IPM approach managing ants requires that you learn to identify the type of ant, learn about their behavior and eating habits, and use your knowledge about the pests’ lifestyle to control, reduce and ultimately keep them from invading your home.

Removing food and water sources, inspecting and sealing any openings where different species enter the house, and inspecting house plants before bringing them indoors are all helpful methods of prevention and control. Spray the leaves of all house plants before bringing them inside, to wash off any insects, eggs or honeydew residue.

Types of Indoor Ants and Their Behaviors

Ants are divided into two castes, and their social standing within the colony is based on their caste. Reproductive ants are the higher caste. All winged ants fall into this category. Both male and female reproductive ants can have wings. Some species are so difficult to control that the only way get rid of them is by enlisting the help of professional pest control services.

Female ants have wings until they mate for the first time, and then they shed them. Male ants have wings for life – albeit a very short one. They usually die within two weeks after mating. They exist purely to mate with queen ants. Once queen ants hatch the first eggs, they spend the rest of their lives hatching eggs, while worker ants serve the queen by feeding and cleaning her. Worker ants feed adult ants and defend their nests.

There are six types of ants that cause the most problems in homes:

  • Pavement ants hide around the base of toilets and along carpet borders and baseboards. They eat other bugs on plants and anything with grease. These small, dark brown 3/16-inch long pests are common around the US, and particularly in New England.

  • Thief ants are most common in the Central and Eastern United States, although they exist all over the country. They are among the smallest ants and are often mistaken for the Pharaoh ant. They get their name from their habit of stealing food from other ants’ colonies.

    Their tiny nests are usually hidden inside walls, or behind baseboards. They maneuver their way into any packaged foods, and they especially like sweets, but they also eat proteins. Store all bulk and non-perishable food that doesn’t come in bottles or cans in air-tight sealed containers. The best method of control for thief ants is to eliminate potential entry places into the home, and all food sources.

  • Crazy ants are native to India, but they are found almost exclusively from Florida to Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. They are distinguished by their insane and unpredictable movements and by their very long legs. Finding their trail is all but impossible because they move in such an irregular manner. They adapt to almost any conditions and eat insects, sweets and grease. The only effective way to control crazy ants is by removing all food sources and nesting places.

  • Field ants, like carpenter ants, nest near buildings. Although most commonly found in the Midwest, they do exist through out the rest of the country. Their diet consists primarily of insects and honeydew secretions from insects. Although they are one of the six ant species found in homes, they are not as much of a nuisance as the other species.

  • Pharaoh ants are very small, only measuring 1/16th of an inch in length. These African natives are found throughout the world and live in heated buildings, typically hibernating in any dark and empty place they find – including folded bags and newspapers. This species is known for building gigantic colonies that often have several queens. They sometimes engage in “budding” – the term used to describe what happens when some queens take some worker ants away to build their own new nests and colonies.

    Since these tiny ants travel along electrical wires and elsewhere inside walls, sealing places where utilities enter the house is essential, as is removing any potential dark, moist place that would invite nest building, and taking away all food sources. The only way to prevent these ants from spreading is by eliminating the entire colony.

  • Argentine ants are most common in Southern California and throughout the Southeastern United States. They build large colonies, but often merge with other colonies, potentially resulting in enormous, destructive situations. They enter homes by moving along electrical wires or by climbing trees and maneuvering their way across limbs to get into the house.

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2 Responses to “Green Solutions for Winter Ant Control and Elimination”

  1. Are We Ants? Blog # 19 | emilykarn Says:

    […] Green Solutions for Winter Ant Control and Elimination ( […]

  2. Use Garlic and Cinnamon to Get Rid of Ants | How to Build a House Says:

    […] Green Solutions for Winter Ant Control and Elimination […]

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